Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Monday March 3, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
Kurt Smith · Thursday June 30, 2011
Editor’s Note: Matt is off this week. Look for him to return next Thursday with another great column for your enjoyment.
Greetings race fans, and let me say that I once again have the honor of filling in for the inimitable and cantankerous wiseacre Matt McLaughlin this week. But since this still falls under the header of MPM2Nite, you can send all the complaints to him.
Anyway, I was scanning through several NASCAR articles on Jayski this week, and the impression that I’m getting is that NASCAR is still attempting to make fixes to a sport that I think even they would admit by now has veered off course in the past decade.
After reading about the “wide open” coverage of the Daytona night race coming this weekend from TNT, I got to thinking about how long NASCAR has been wrestling with the problem of too much live action being missed to all-too-frequent commercial breaks. At least, I like to think NASCAR has been wrestling with the problem. And I hope they don’t get mad at my using “NASCAR” and “wrestling” in the same sentence.
And it dawned on me, that this audience-shrinking mechanism of overwhelming obscene profit breaks, like many of the issues that have driven many devoted NASCAR fans away, could be mostly solved with a determined overhaul of the schedule, with a focus on tracks that are less than a mile in length.
That’s not to say the problem of commercial frequency would be completely solved; some networks (one of them begins with “FOX”) will run a break every ten laps no matter how little time ten laps takes. NASCAR need to address that, and one way is to put it in the contract, even if it means taking a few million less for it.
But at races like Bristol or Richmond, with the tight quarters bringing about harder racing and more cautions, there’s more of an opportunity to sell butt paste without depriving fans of green flag action. Yes, ESPN screwed it up royally last year at Dover coming back from a break with 6 to go, but in fact that is (and should be) a fairly rare occurrence.
And a schedule that focuses on more Martinsvilles and less Chicagos would address a few other problems too:
Lack of Rivalries and Colorful Drivers: Almost every week these days, the second one driver gives another a little shove, the words “have at it” come out of the announcers’ mouths at least twice. It’s as if Robin Pemberton addressed the whole issue of lack of driver feuds with just three words, and he wasn’t even talking about drivers pushing and shoving as much as they want.
But what’s the big rivalry these days? Montoya and Newman? Gordon and Truex? Does anyone consider Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. to be a rivalry at the level of Waltrip-Earnhardt?
Rivalries are great for a sport’s bottom line, even if some fans take them far too seriously. NASCAR’s champion for the last five seasons is among the most gentlemanly drivers in the sport, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But I’m willing to bet that if Chicago, Kansas, and Fontana were replaced with Rockingham, North Wilkesboro and Milwaukee, Bruton Smith would be more likely to get his wish of Jimmie Johnson finally taking a swing at someone.
And any two drivers that may genuinely have a dislike for each other, like Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick, would be finding themselves racing each other a lot more often when there’s only a half mile of space to race on.
Ratings: Fans who have gotten away from planting themselves in front of the television every Sunday afternoon have done so for several reasons; but overabundant commercials and lack of driver personality (along with the Chase) are nearly at the top of the list almost every time.
Tony Stewart’s doing everything he can to generate some interest in who’s going to punt who this week, but you can only do so much in Michigan. Far better for fans to be annoyed because another driver wrecked their hero than to feel cheated because their driver lost a race to the type of “debris caution” that always seems to come when someone is running away with the lead.
And if the sport’s #1 ratings machine, Dale Earnhardt Jr., really is as good as his fan base still believes—and truth be told, he has been showing signs of improvement with Steve Letarte on the pit box—then NASCAR would do well to give him every opportunity to prove it without being buckled down by aero setup. Last year, Junior had just six finishes of 7th or better, and three of them were Bristol, Loudon and Martinsville. Only once did he finish in the top ten at a non-plate speedway. In 2009 Junior had just five top ten finishes; two of them were at Bristol and Martinsville.
And if he comes through, the ratings probably soar.
Attendance: Of course the spreadsheet says Martinsville is too small and doesn’t hold enough people, and Kansas has space for plenty of seats and could bring in many more millions.
The spreadsheet also says that Tropicana Field in Tampa Bay is more comfortable, seats more people, and is easier to get to than Fenway Park in Boston.
Unlike many of the issues NASCAR attempts to explain away with the economic downturn, lowered attendance at places like Martinsville is much more likely rooted in economic factors. There is a smaller local audience to draw from, and the prices of gas would be a seriously prohibitive factor in making a long trip to a remote track, especially in an RV. Then figure in hotel costs, especially in a place whose biggest tourism draw is a racetrack.
So what’s my point? If Chicagoland were a short track, might it not create a few memorable moments forever associated with it? How about Kansas, or Charlotte especially? In times like these, fans in large markets would have a terrific venue not very far away to witness a NASCAR event. Such moments would create an exciting buzz around the sport and sell more tickets. There isn’t any doubt in my mind that another Bristol-type track done right in a Chicago-sized market could easily generate a lengthy sellout streak.
And it would be a heck of a lot easier to sell out 70,000 seats than 140,000…even if you charged twice as much. Ask any Red Sox or Rays fan.
Recognition of Driver Over Engineer Skill: One of NASCAR’s stated goals with the “Car of Tomorrow” was to put success more in the hands of the driver than with the engineers in the shop that give an advantage to a well-funded team. A noble goal, perhaps, but it hasn’t worked out very well; nor will it until aero setup is not the huge factor for success that it is at the bigger tracks (and especially at plate tracks).
At Martinsville you can get a fender knocked off and still win the race. At Bristol you can have your rear bumper removed and actually have an advantage, because it makes it much tougher to push you around. I’ve seen seriously beat up machines win races at short tracks, and not many things prove a driver’s mettle more than maneuvering a mangled machine into victory lane.
When a driver wins at Talladega, he is usually lucky. When a driver wins at Charlotte, he generally has a better setup than most other cars and was skilled enough to win without wrecking. When a driver wins at Infineon, he has skills worthy of respect. And when a driver wins at Bristol, he has skill, guts, and exceptional car and emotional control.
Want to help the little guy? Nothing levels the playing field like a good bull ring. And that leads me to…
Buschwhackers: Not only would the full-time Nationwide drivers have a better shot at taking down and possibly embarrassing the numerous Cup drivers that invade the series and are accustomed to steamrolling the competition in lesser equipment, Cup drivers might also be a little reluctant to tackle two races every weekend if they knew they were going to be battling hungry up-and-comers for every inch throughout both events.
I don’t know if participating in Nationwide events ultimately hurts guys like Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards—it doesn’t seem to—but I’m betting it would after three straight weekends of being banged around by someone looking to catch a Cup owner’s eye.
The Chase: The Chase has long been a ratings-killer for NASCAR like no playoff in any other sport is. Why they continue to stick with this meatball of an innovation in the face of the palpable disgust of the remaining fans that continue to dislike it, I do not know.
But if you took Chicago, Homestead, and Texas out of it and replaced them with Bristol, Rockingham and Iowa—or something similar to those three—there might be a little bit of excitement generated by the fact that people are going to see drivers going for it instead of trying to get out into “clean air”.
Too many wild cards for you in a ten-race Chase? That’s simple to fix; lose the Chase and come up with a new way to crown a champion.
Okay, so maybe putting more short tracks on the schedule won’t fix the problem of making the first 26 races meaningless. But hey, I gotta give it the old college try.
So there you have it; major problems NASCAR faces that could be addressed with a not very complex fix. I’m not going to suggest that NASCAR return to North Wilkesboro or Rockingham, it shouldn’t if the market can’t or won’t support it. But it’s long been time to start looking at the configuration of a track before awarding a race there, and largely for the reasons that I’ve listed here.
There are ways to do it without a lot of pain. Existing tracks like Charlotte could be reconfigured. Tracks that are being built in future markets could be remodeled if they haven’t been.
It might not be as easy or quick as it is to change the points system again or redesign the car so that manufacturers have an identity, but it would be far more successful as a long term fix.
Even with today’s big money athletics, less is still more.
©2000 - 2008 Kurt Smith and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!
I have said this many times: I will never understand why NASCAR thinks it is better to have 50k – 75k more butts in the stands but at the cost of losing millions of TV viewers.
Yeah Yeah – NASCAR gets their cut of the $10 hot dog sales. But how does that help when racing at mediocre cookie cutter tracks is one of the reasons for the drop in interest and TV ratings (don’t believe me – watch an early 2000 race at Rockingham. I know I personally watched every lap compared to what I do now when they race at Chicago / Kansas: watch the first 20 and last 20 because the rest is not worth losing a Sunday).
So good for you NASCAR. You get to charge $15 for a cup of beer. Just don’t cry when Fox moves all of the cookie cutter races to Speed and you get half of the TV viewers.
The choir has been preached to. Please forward the sermon to Brian France.
I’m just going to say thank you for not mentioning Fontana and taking the easy cheap shot it provides.
Nice piece. I’ve noticed my lack of interest when I forgot the race was on last weekend and missed a third. There’s so much to analyze as the sport struggles to recover from a slump since 2008.
We can have speedways on the schedule, but it is in extreme excess right now. The schedule has been shuffled around so much in the past decade, I can’t even run through the current schedule in my head.
Another problem with the big tracks is it is easier to take advantage of the lucky dog & wave around. Years ago, getting laps back would be difficult, drivers would work hard to avoid getting lapped – and later race to earn it back. The drivers competing for the win at the end worked hard to get there and maintain the pace of the leader.
Now just ride around 30th in 80% of the race. A few debris cautions will hand you a lucky dog or wave around. Get in position around 25 to go and gamble with 10 to go. Block without wrecking and you have a top 10.
“The Chase: The Chase has long been a ratings-killer for NASCAR like no playoff in any other sport is. Why they continue to stick with this meatball of an innovation in the face of the palpable disgust of the remaining fans that continue to dislike it, I do not know.”
Answer: Brian’s EGO. He will never admit it was a bad idea, like Bud Selig and Gary Bettman.
Right On!!! Fantastic column.
In the last 4 yrs I have watched maybe three races. The rest of the time I just catch some nascar news on the net to see if anythings going on.
I barely hang on to nascar to see if they will, if ever, return to what it once was.